CLIMATE ADAPTATION SUBJECTS
Climate resilience is touted as a policy goal, an attitude, and an academic concept drawing on multiple disciplines. It encompasses increasing the resilience of infrastructure and mitigating the impacts of extreme disasters by utilising frameworks from engineering, ecology, and evolutionary science.
Climate resilience discourse increasingly emphasies the entrepreneurial ability of grassroots organizations and individuals to undertake their own risk preparedness, especially as they become more interconnected through digital information that reports both risks and capabilities. Through drawing on grass-roots ideologies, climate resilience also borrows neoliberal rhetoric of the ‘entrepreneurial person.’ This subject is a ‘calculating’ and ‘responsible’ individual who strives for self-optimization (to become and remain lean, fit, flexible, autonomous) and competes individually in the global marketplace.
New York City’s latest urban development policy called OneNYC ‘The Plan for a Strong and Just City’ (2015-2019) makes extensive reference to a ‘people centered
government.’ A close reading reveals that under such politics a climate resilient subject will likely be vulnerable to unequal distribution of protective infrastructure and without the support of long-term investment in public programs that would combat poverty and insecurity.
And yet, political constituencies can also form around assessin climate resilience. Citizens in Bogotá engaged in acts of measurement of their own community risks, in a neighborhood that had developed in ravines subject to erosion and other climate exacerbated risks. Measurements included counting leaking water supply tubes, and registering illegal dumping. This act of measuring climate risks constructed a political constituency.
Reconstituting the identity of climate resilient subjects allows for the questioning of what political agency follows from instances where citizens monitor and protect themselves from risk. How does such monitoring open subjects up to being capitalized on by economic and political actors interested in sustaining the status quo? How can we begin to think of climate risk measurement practices that are utilized for critiquing authority, and in turn exposing how ‘individual’
failures are in fact systemic in origin?
Defined by Veronica Olivotto
Image: Photo by Rita Lambert, © 2013. Community mappers from José Carlos Mariátegui, district of San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima-Peru holding the drone that captured the high resolution images of their settlements on the peripheral slopes until then unmapped. Part of the action research project ReMap Lima, DPU- UCL.